Norway officially recognizes Palestine

Israel reacts strongly; fears that this comes at wrong moment

Photo: Erik Flaaris Johansen / NTB
On May 22, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (right) announced that as of May 28, 2024, Norway will recognize Palestine as it own state. Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide (left) stood by.

Isabel Bech og Are Føli

Norway’s formal recognition of Palestine will take effect on May 28, 2024. On this same date, Spain and Ireland will also recognize Palestine as an independent state.

“Norway wishes to regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said at a May 22 press conference.

Rewards Hamas

The opposition parties—Conservatives (Høyre), Progress Party (FRP), and Christian Democratic Party (KrF)—emphasized that they support the recognition, but they asked each other if this was the right time.

Progress Party leader Sylvi Listhaug believes this will indirectly reward Hamas’ acts of terror against Israel.

“The establishment of a Palestinian state must be part of a negotiated solution, and we must also be sure that we do not recognize what could become an Islamist dictatorship. Recognition is in reality a strengthening of forces that do not want negotiations and compromises,” Listhaug said.

Can halt the peace process

The Conservative Party maintains that a recognition of Palestine must take place at the time when it can best contribute to a political solution to the conflict.

“This is the government’s decision, but the Conservative Party is unsure whether to do this right now, wanting to bring us closer to a political solution to this conflict. It is also related to the fact that recognition is something you can only do once, said Conservative leader Erna Solberg and the head of the Storting’s foreign affairs committee, Ine Eriksen Søreide, in a joint statement.

Deputy leader and foreign policy spokesperson in KrF, Dag-Inge Ulstein, believes that it feels like the government is under pressure for a symbolic act, which in the worst case could stall the peace process.

Cannot wait

In Støre’s view, there are several reasons why it is right to recognize Palestine now, including the ongoing war in Gaza.

“The war is a low point in a long-term, negative development in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It took us many years to find a similarly serious situation in the Middle East as today,” he said.

Since the Oslo Accords about 30 years ago, Norway and many other countries have tried a strategy where recognition would come after a peace solution. Støre asserted that this hasn’t worked.

“We must therefore think differently and act accordingly. A recognition can no longer wait until after a peace solution,” he said.

Støre is now encouraging more countries to recognize Palestine.

“It can contribute to the process towards a two-state solution finally being able to start again and gain new strength,” said the Norwegian prime minister.

Israel calls home ambassadors

Israel reacted strongly to the news, calling home its ambassadors to both Norway and Ireland.

“Today I am sending a clear message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not let this pass by in silence. I have just ordered the recall of the Israeli ambassadors to Dublin and Oslo to Israel for further consultations in Jerusalem,’ said Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in a statement to the press.

“Ireland and Norway intend to send a message today to the Palestinians and the world: terrorism pays,” said Katz, according to Associated Press news agency. Støre says he is taking this into account.

“This is a government with which we have many disagreements. What we agree on is to condemn Hamas’ cruel attack on Oct. 7,” said Støre to NRK.

Hamas thanks Norway

“This is a historic turning point in Europe, and I am sure that many countries will follow this very important step to strengthen the position of the Palestinian cause on an international level,” said Bassem Naeem, spokesperson for international relations in Hamas, to Norway’s TV 2. “We always benefit from strong support from Norway, both for the Palestinian cause and for the rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.

Celebrations and sanctions

The confirmation that Norway recognizes Palestine as an independent state was received favorably by Norway’s Palestine Committee.

Leader Line Khateeb emphasized, however, that the recognition must also have consequences for Norway’s investments in Israel’s occupied territories, especially through the oil fund.

The Green Party (MDG) also agrees that Norwegian investments in occupied areas in Palestine must cease.

The Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Socialist Left Party (SV) are also happy about the recognition. Former Red Party (Rødt) leader and now foreign policy spokesperson Bjørnar Moxnes has spoken out for The Red Party’s proposal to introduce sanctions against Israel.

Also see Norge reagerer på konflikten på Gazastripen in the November 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå), the Norwegian News Agency, is a press agency and wire service that serves most of the largest Norwegian media outlets. The agency is located in Oslo and has bureaus in Brussels, Belgium, and Tromsø in northern Norway